This paper will also address the issue of social utopias, and within social utopias it will analyse the subject of Socialism, as a political system, economic and social. It will look from the working class revolutions as a result of their struggle by the time, initially led by great thinkers of the time such as Karl Marx and Engels. Both Marx and Engels began the revolutionary process for the lower class (proletariat), to get the power and the right to receive payment for their labour.
Nevertheless, later it raised questions regarding the type of action, how to act, when and how, once they came to power. Furthermore it will explore the contradictions and influences on this system, as put forward by the supporters of other trends that did not overlook the failures.
This paper will also take some lines to discuss the socialism diversion or fusion within the social-democracy and the concept of “Third Way”. This will thoroughly analyse and describe the view of different actors such as Anthony Geddens who stated that the “Third Way rejects the traditional conception of socialism, and instead accepts the conception of socialism”. However, Third Way refers to various political concepts that are neither right-wing nor left-wings rather reconcile the sides to advocate aspects of free-market capitalism with egalitarian social aims at the same time. Finally, the main elements of this essay will be brought together and summarised in the form of conclusion.
Attempting to answer the question straight forward and taking in consideration a thorough analysis of the classical socialism concepts and the “new” social-democracy of the last two decades, this paper arguably suggest that “nationalization” is no longer the central doctrine of socialism” due to its moderation and diversion from its old position of common ownership toward the liberal perception and unchangeable values such as privatisation and free market. However, the generalisation of this statement would have been simplistic and unrealistic when considering socialism in differentcountries such as Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, “Cuba” and some other countries in the region where socialism still hold its classical principle of nationalization.
This tendency shows that socialism, adapt and moderate according to the perceptions of different countries and societies rather than the fulfilment of a set of principles as it proclaim. This is to say that the socialist “systematic level” has failed dramatically, therefore, its advocate the “state level” into a very small scale resulting from a high influence from the “individual level of analysis. For example; considering the individual level of analysis, Tony Blair has marked a huge moderation of the socialism doctrine in the UK by putting its emphasis on privatisation and deregulation of the market. Similarly, it is believed that Bill Clinton administration in the USA had the same approach of diversion from the real social-democratic concepts.
However, prior to discuss deeper the overall concept of socialism and its diversion toward a mixt ideology, it is vital to first describe socialism from its classical and historical process, In order to find a comprehensive overview of socialism and its main doctrine. As suggested by Mukherjee, “the first attempt to develop the concepts of socialism was found in the works of Francois Noel Gracchus Babeuf between 1760 and 1797 as well as Fillippo Michael Buonarroti between 1761 and 1837, both influenced by the writings of Jean Jacques Rousseau to express an opposition to inequality and individualism”. This voice of socialism carried out several meanings over the years.
For example; “Socialism as communist utopia”- Here highlight an old theory of Plato on socialism, which can be considered as a prototype, utopian socialism seeks to address problems through measures that provide hardly achievable and partial solutions. Utopianism was not new: Plato in The Republic, among others, defended utopians theoretical solutions. In the early twentieth century, the utopian socialists offer practical solutions. It tackles the need to plan the economy and defended the union between employers and employees to solve social problems. Secondly, “socialism as a social and political movement” – this is however a real product, not theoretical, derived from the creation of political economy in the eighteenth century, and the transformations in the economy and life of modern societies by the Industrial Revolution. (Mukhergee, S. et. Al. 2000 p15-25)
In a sense, socialism is a system, like all others, it has a variety of general rules and norms. Thus, socialism is a system that exposes an economic organization of society on the basis which abolishes individual ownership of the means of production. This system has an impact on the organization of the community, to achieve the deletion of salaried therefor, its produce the disappearance of classes. The aims of socialist system as perceived from its classical conception is to replace the salaried to collectivist regime, this means that all goods belong to the community with no individual ownership; the point here is to organize “rationally” the economy and ensure a fair distribution. In short, it emphasizes the idea of “nationalization”.
Nonetheless, socialism has become over time a political movement followed by the masses. Its first conversion was in Europe, thanks to the work of great revolutionaries of the time: Marx, Engels and its disciples. The socialist movement has taken over time, two different forms as follow: “the evolutionary” – is a socialist party to achieve its objectives within the democratic system, which tends to form or achieve a socialist democracy which has now the short denomination of Social Democracy. This form was applied by the so called International Amsterdam 1912 (Second International). The revolutionary form emerges from the Third International, after its triumph in Russia (1919), which resulted to communism. (Kilroy-Silk. R. 1972)
Socialism is a movement, often related to the time of the Industrial Revolution. In the occurrence of the Industrial Revolution, it marked the beginning of a new economic, political and social movement that tended to replace Capitalism which divided the working society and the owners. At that time, appeared a new social class: the proletariat. This class emerged from the creation of large factories in need of workers to control the production of machines and create a chain of manufacturing. This led to the creation of massive industrial peripheries completely established by the working class. (Kilroy-Silk. R. 1972)
However, the working class creates the foundations of the economies of the states, but paradoxically, these workers had inhuman living conditions and do not get enough capital to reward the exchange between its own labour and products. Gradually, it noted that the working class, made up a large majority of the population, lived in subhuman conditions, in contrast to the lifestyle of the owners, who had all kinds of commodities. This leads to the
proletarian class to consider the need to change its situation and find a way of organizing taking advantage on the number that it represented in order to gain the social power.
This is how the labour movement appeared as an essential trend in the politics of industrial countries. Socialism is often interpreted as a way of radically transforming reality. The critical thinker Karl Marx gave an assurance that the working class needed by the time by promoting and developing the struggle of the proletarian against the upper class. Karl Marx through its Communist Manifesto after 1850 moved every bourgeois to feel a respect for the working class. (Howe, I.1976)
Given the background and the historical process of socialism, it can be argued that the central doctrine of socialism has its emphasis on “egalitarianism and nationalization”. However this, view seems to be relegated into a second plan. Equality as the central idea of Socialism has moved from the claim about the equality of individuals, to the notion of equality on the basis of different treatment. Equality in social context, does not mean to imbalance or equalise it all, rather, according to its capacity, will be given appropriate treatment. However, the ideal also includes a production process and requires a fair contribution of each individual to society.
On the notion of nationalization or common ownership of the means of production, Marx analysed the term precisely. The means of production placed the individual in bourgeois society. Equality would not be effective without the abolition of private property, which involved the removal of the bourgeoisie. The purpose of elimination of private property is the collective ownership of the means of production; common ownership is the bridge to achieve greater equality.
Against contrast to this position by Marx, it is argued that common ownership is a form of obtaining greater equality in agricultural countries; the collective farms have a relative stabilization. Notwithstanding, in industrial countries, it is difficult for a socialist government to emphasize the common property to boost the economy, without creating a state capitalism. Though, this view removes the original proposal of socialism that suggest capitalism could be fought for a socialist world.
Much more than any theoretical argument, was the disappointing experience with the Russian-type of socialism that led to a steady decline in popularity of the orthodox Marxist socialism and induce the emergence and development of modern social-democratic socialism, which is the object of this argument. Both types of socialism, no doubt, come from the same ideological sources.
Both are equal in motivation, at least in theory, and both have essentially the same ultimate goal: the extinction of capitalism as a social system based on private property and the foundation of a new society characterized by solidarity and brotherhood to eradicate scarcity, a society in which everyone is paid “in accordance with their needs.” Since the beginnings of the socialist movement in the mid-nineteenth century, however, had conflicting ideas about the most appropriate methods to achieve those goals. Although generally there was agreement on the need for socialization of the means of production, there have always been differing opinions on how to proceed.
In light of the theoretical arguments presented in the previous paragraphs there seems to be no economic justification for socialism. Socialism promised to bring economic prosperity to more people than capitalism and much of its popularity is based on that promise. However, the arguments presented proved that the truth was the opposite. These showed that the Russian-type socialism, characterized by “nationalization” or socialization of the means of production, necessarily involve economic waste, since there exist prices for the factors of production (because it was not allowed to buy or sell the means of production) and consequently accountancy of cost could not be done.
With respect to the social democratic and conservative socialism, it was demonstrated that, in any case, both result into an increased production costs and a decline in costs in comparison to its alternative, or non-production and black-market production, which thus leads to a relative reduction in the production of wealth since both versions of socialism creates an incentive structure that (compared to the capitalist system) it favours relatively the non-producers and non- contractors to the detriment of producers and contractors of goods, products and services.
As discussed in previous paragraphs, it analysed the orthodox of Marxist version of socialism (socialism of Russian-style, as it was described) and analysed its consequences in the production process and the moral structure of society. It also observed that the consequences of relative impoverishment predicted theoretically shown to be so powerful that, in fact, a policy of socialization of the means of production could never effectively be held until its logical end, which is the socialization of all factors of production, without causing immediate economic disaster.
In fact, all real achievements of Marxist socialism were forced to reintroduce the means of production elements of private property in order to overcome or avoid evident failure. However, even the moderate socialism “market” cannot prevent the relative impoverishment of the population, if the idea of the socialized production is not completely abandoned.
The experience also confirms the arguments. In general, the standard of living in Eastern Europe is significantly lower than those in Western Europe, where the degree of socialization of the means of production, even extraordinary, is relatively much lower. And also, wherever they magnify the degree of redistributive measures and increase the proportion of wealth that is produced redistributed, as occurred, for example, in West Germany during the 1970s under the coalition government between Social Democrats and Liberals there was a delay in the production of social wealth or even an absolute reduction in the general living standard.
Though, wherever a society wants to preserve the status quo, a particular distribution of income and wealth through price controls, regulations, and behavioural controls. Example; in Hitler’s Germany or currently in Italy and France – living standards seems to fall steadily and even more in comparison with the more liberal societies (capitalist).
However, despite its controversies socialism is very much alive and well, even in the West, where the social-democratic socialism and conservatism remained powerful ideologies. How could this happen? An important factor is that its supporters abandoned the original idea of economic superiority of socialism and resorted to a completely different argument: Socialism cannot be economically superior, but is morally preferable. From this perspective,
it indicates the beginning of a different approach to address the issue of economic strategy that socialism advocated by Karl Marx could not resolve.
Taking the above argument into context, it must acknowledge that for centuries it has noted a dispute between different ideologies to address concepts of a successful and sustainable economy.
Though, liberal and socialist have since dominated the dispute. Since the end of the World War II, states have gradually shifted from its genuine form of government toward a neoliberal approaches. These shifts have been noted worldwide due to right wings economists suggesting that neoliberal policies are the only viable way for an economic growth. However, time has proved the reverse of these beliefs. Under the neoliberal policies it has noted an increasing of huge social and economic inequality within states and individuals which clearly affect the functions of the economy as a whole and compromised its sustainability.
As an attempt to describe the contrast ideology toward socialism (liberalism), it is essential to acknowledge in this paper that the main feature of neoliberal policies is to prevent the state intervention on the economic decisions to promote the free market ideal. However, the main argument here is to emphasize the idea of privatisation to abolish the common ownership or state belonging. The justification on this argument of liberals is to increase efficiency and innovation through a competitive market. Regardless of its social and economic concerns, neoliberal approaches have come along with some strength which in some extent boosted and stimulated the economy remarkably in western countries.
Unlike, socialism along with its developed idea of social democratic policies has its emphasis on egalitarianism, nationalization or even common ownership as stated in paragraphs above. This is an ideology that has risen from the idea that “capitalism breeds poverty by nature” (Marx). This decreasing idea of egalitarianism and nationalization was discussed and developed initially by Karl Marx; ideologically this still the centre of social democratic policies. The socialists’ emphasis on common good or common ownership allows a better distribution of the welfare state within the society.
This however interferes and regulates total or partially the market to prevent the exploitation and diminish social and economic inequality. However, it is argued that this socialist approach prevents the rapid growth of the economy and creates a dependency culture. This last has been the argument of neoliberal against the social democracy policies.
However, still on social democracy, on the last decades it has noted a slight shift toward a “third way” to resolve certain issues such as the economic sustainability as Anthony Giddens pointed out, the term Third Way refers to various political positions which try to reconcile right-wing and left-wing politics by advocating a varying synthesis of right-wing economic and left-wing social policies. Third Way was created as a serious re-evaluation of political policies within various centre-left progressive movements in response to international doubt regarding the economic viability of the state; economic interventionist policies that had previously been popularized by Keynesianism and contrasted with the corresponding rise of popularity for neoliberalism.
This is in a sense an approach toward mix ideologies, an idea that seems to take the opposite ideas and transform with different views to make its own policies. For example; Tony Blair in UK and Bill Clinton in the USA administration, both had a clear approach toward the third way which made it a bit confusing to identify its own ideologies. (Giddens A. 1998)
For Giddens, the “third way” differs from social democracy and neoliberalism. Politically, third way “is a movement to modernize the centre. Notwithstanding, it accept the basic socialist values of social justice, it rejects the political class long debated seeking a foothold that pervades classes of society.” On the notion of economy, the “third way” suggests a new “mixed” economy, basing on the “balance” between regulation and deregulation and between the economic and non-economic life of society. It must “preserve economic competition” when it is threatened by the monopoly. Should also “control the national monopolies creating and sustain the institutional foundations of the markets” (Giddens A. 1998).
According to Steven Fielding, in the view of Tony Blair, “the third way is the route to renewal and success of modern social democracy. This is not simply a compromise between the left and right. It is essential to recover the values of the centre-left and apply them to a world of fundamental social and economic changes, and make them free from outdated ideologies. In economics, the approach does not elect neither laissez-faire nor state interference. The role of government is to promote macroeconomic stability, developing tax policies and welfare. (Fielding, S. 2003
However, criticism and controversy has also risen against the wave of the third way conception. The term “third way” back in the 90’s in the UK, papered with a purely electioneering purpose, that came, to offer a new “feature” to the British Labour Party (New Labour), battered for 20 years by then when Thatcherism was in control. Whether premeditated or influenced by conservative dominance by the time, Tony Blair diverted the Labour Party from its original claim as “social–democracy” toward the liberal’s perception of privation and deregulation of the market.
The frequent question asked by many is whether labour party by Blair was still a social democratic party or it deviated completely toward the neoliberal’s approaches. As discussed through the essay, Tony Blair literally took the third way conception by recognising some features of liberals on the economic point of view without disregard the real socialist conception of inequality, it however respond the question once again that nationalisation is no longer an credited or accurate belief for socialism at least on the view of tony Blair and other “new socialist disciples”.
According to Ricardo Antunes a Brazilian sociologist, the “third way” in the UK, continued to dismantle workers’ rights, increased privatization, increased the country’s submission to imperialism political-military of the USA in its military incursions in the Arab world. So the “third way” is the fundamental preservation of neoliberalism with a social democratic veneer. The “third way” is called “left-liberal social”, as propagated by its ideologues, is essentially an ideology that sees itself as “left”, but its practices the main features of the right, or even what is left of social democracy in the most destructive of capitalism, and tries to repair some of the damage of neoliberalism, preserving its basic engineering economics (Antunes R. 1999)
The policy of Tony Blair, for many, brought absolutely nothing new, but continues the neoliberal policies of Margaret Thatcher: “Blair was just a male version of Margaret Thatcher”. Blair won elections in the UK, because was considered an alternative to voters weary of neoliberal reforms made by conservatives. In supporting of this statement Steven Fielding stated that “probably the most commonplace view has it that when, during the autumn of 1994, Blair first referred to his party as ‘New’ Labour he described something real.
The majority of observers considered that in trying to compete with the electorally successful conservatives, Blair turned Labour from a keen critic of capitalism into one of its champions, abandoned its commitment to reduce inequality and cut most of the party’s ties with the manual working class. Thus, by the time of the 1997 General Election it was widely believed that little distinguished ‘New’ Labour from the conservatives under Margaret Thatcher and her successor, John Major”( Fielding, S. 2003 p1)
Marilena Chauí, a philosophy and historian of philosophy at university of Sao Paulo, presents some of the main tenets of this view throughout its article “Fantasy of the third way”): A)- Politic: “modernize” the centre, with the acceptance of the idea of social justice and rejection of the “political class” and “economic equality”, seeking support in all walks of life and ensuring that government is a supporter of the expansion and development of individual freedom. Hence the interest in abolishing the concept of “class struggle”, considered obsolete with the end of the bipolar society, capitalism versus socialism,B)- Economy: this is to create a “mixed economy”, that balances regulation and deregulation, leading into account the non-economic aspects of social life, C)- Government: States have no enemies. Face problems.
The main problem for the democratic state is its legitimacy: preach the administrative reform that makes the state an administrator as competent as a large corporation, D) – Nation: the nation has no meaning in the world of globalization, E) – Welfare: this is to correct the excesses and perverse effects of the welfare state and reform the Welfare State. (Chauí M.1999)
In conclusion, this paper has noted different concept of socialism from various perspectives and period of time; it discussed the main features from the classical socialism until the “modern” social-democracy, deriving from social utopia along with the revolutionary process. It learned that socialism as a political system and economic strategy is a new ideological trend that emerged with the social needs of the population worldwide. In comparison with the classical socialism, it present similar features, the only difference is that nowadays it is accompanied with a participatory democracy and recognise the main economic feature of liberals overview such as privatisation and deregulation of the market.
However, this recognition still holds a strong opposition in different countries remarkably in South America where the notion of nationalization remains unchangeable despite the freeze on its economic growth. According to observers, socialism adapts to the reality of each country, it does not hold a dogmas or principles, therefore present a new proposal to the imperial imposition of USA. In its approaches, there are significant variations, definition and concepts are very faint, it makes permanent topic in discussion, in order to solve the old and failed capitalist system.
However, it has nothing new, despite the observation from different states and actors, the basics are the same proposed by Marx and Lenin. The class struggle is presented as a necessary, to free the proletariat. Essentially this new approach has serious gaps in its conceptualization. It will build a new socialism to be proclaimed permanently.
The question would be where the novelty resides? When looking to the situation, from the angles of democratic socialism and Marxist proposition of the XXI century. In some places, again taking for example in South America; socialism is presented as a fuzzy, unclear, unintelligible, except in certain statements by political expediency seated respect for private property but with strong state regulation, preservation of political democracy with significant constraints and differentiation with the old socialist experiences. Finally, ideologically socialism still holds the principle of nationalization as its central doctrine. However, realistically it has been readapted to enhance its economics goals and for the sake of electorates’ gains, however, it has
been considered as a diversion toward a third way conception and abandoning the real socialism claim of nationalization, egalitarianism and equality.
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Chaui, M.1999. “Fantasy Of the Third Way”, Via Reuters. São Paulo: São Paulo press, 30 de November, 1999.
Fielding, S. 2003, The Labour Party “continuity and change in the making of ‘New’ Labour”, 1st edition, Palgrave Macmillan, New York.
Giddens, A. 2000,The Third Way and Its Critics, 1st edition, Polity Press, Cambridge.
Giddens, A. 2008, The third way “the renewal of social democracy”, 1st edition, Polity Press, Cambridge.
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